The God-Claw

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My boys have been obsessed with the movie Toy Story for the better part of three years now. And when I say obsessed, what I really mean is that their very hearts beat to the rhythm of Buzz Lightyear’s lasers and Woody’s lasso throws. They eat, sleep, and breathe the mantra that toys are a kid’s best friend. They dress up in Toy Story costumes and go about daily life as if they actually are the movie characters they idolize and adore. They have memorized every line of every Toy Story movie (including the lesser known spinoffs such as Toy Story of Terrors and Toy Story That Time Forgot).

All this to say, I have seen a lot of Toy Story. A LOT.

For those of you who may be *ahem* less familiar with the movie, you should know that a critical point in the first Toy Story movie centers around a toy claw. Andy (the boy who loves his toys with all his heart, soul, and strength) goes to Pizza Planet (Pixar Chuck E. Cheese’s) where there is an arcade claw machine full of little squeaky green alien toys (Which, by the way, Disney does not manufacture for consumer consumption. They have about 50 different versions of alien toys available through various retailers, but none are the exact size, squishy-ness, and squeaky-ness as the aliens in the movie. I know, because we have bought and tested all 50 alien toy products that are currently available. But I digress…).

At one point in the movie, Buzz Lightyear (the hero toy) gets trapped inside the alien claw machine. In his moment of greatest need, the aliens speak to him. They explain how The Claw is their master, The Claw chooses who will stay and who will go. In short, The Claw is boss over their life.

So a few weeks ago when a friend of mine compared her life to that of an arcade claw machine, I immediately thought of the aliens in Toy Story. I thought of The Claw that is master, that chooses who will stay and who will go. Only in my life, the claw is not a mechanical metal pincer that drops from the sky–it is God. The God-Claw. God is my master, and He chooses who will stay and who will go. The metaphor made perfect sense, and it’s stuck with me.

There have been so many times in my life where I look back and can see how “The God-Claw” has swooped in and moved me to the exact time, place, and position I needed to be in. Like when He put me in this little Bible study in college, and that’s where I met my husband. Or when we got married THE DAY AFTER WE GRADUATED COLLEGE–without a job or a home or a savings account–and we returned from our honeymoon to a job offer and the most perfect student teaching placement I could have ever dreamed of, in the same city as the new job. Or when He carried us a thousand miles away from home to a graduate school we were not qualified to attend and could not afford–but then we got there, and every missing piece of the puzzle came together at the exact right time. Or when He transplanted us halfway around the world to experience life and a culture that would shape our lives and our family forever.

And here we are now–living, working, serving in the place where The God-Claw has deposited us for the time being. I never know how long I will be in a particular place or doing a certain work, and that’s fine. Because I am not the Master. He is.

As long as He is the Master–which, by the way, is forever–I will be His little alien, doing the best that I can where He has placed me, and being willing to go when He calls me. Whether it’s a new job, a new skill, a new parenting method (or two or three…I’m finding that each child may, in fact, require totally different sets of parenting methods), a new surrender (We’ve recently hired a house cleaner because I’ve recognized that I simply can’t do it all. I have to surrender my pride in thinking that I can do everything and be everything. That was a humbling realization.).

Whatever it is, I need to be willing to go where He’s calling. And if He’s not moving me? Then I need to stay. To stay on and continue in the work He has already called me to, and do that work the best way I possibly can.

So that is my hope–that I would be attuned to the movements of “the claw” and that I would be willing to allow it to move me. That I would fully trust God, my master, and hand over the reigns: contentedly, willingly, faithfully, obediently.

 

 

 

 

Home

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“When will we be home?”

Lately Jacob has been asking me this question. Frequently. Like, several times a day. It’s a simple enough question, given the right context. Say you’re out running errands or visiting a neighbor. Or maybe you’re away from home for an extended time, on vacation or traveling somewhere. There are plenty of scenarios where the question “When will we be home?” makes sense. What makes Jacob’s query unusual, however, is the fact that he almost always asks me, “When will we be home?” when we are, in fact, at home.

I can’t blame the kid for his confusion. In his 41 months of life he has already moved “home” 3 times, and over 9,000 miles at that. In fact, this August will be the first August in his entire life that we will NOT be moving to a new home (and only the 4th August in over a decade that our family will stay put. I’m actually in the process of petitioning the government to change the name of August to Moving Month.). For Jacob, home is an impermanent idea more than it is a place.

His question simultaneously amuses me and breaks my heart. After all, one of my jobs as a parent is to provide stability in my childrens’ life…and how can I do that if they change homes as often as they change their underwear (c’mon, folks, we all know how little boys roll).  As much as I want my children to be able to set down roots and call a place their own, however, the question of “When will we be home?” has gotten me thinking.

Maybe there’s something to be said for the realization that we are not home. Something to be said for living life a bit differently, a bit unsettled, on purpose. Something to be said for adjusting to a place while trying also to avoid fully adjusting. Something to be said for the fact that all of us are outsiders, in a way, and that we will never truly be home until we are with Jesus. The Bible tells us that we are strangers, pilgrims, aliens and sojourners on earth (Hebrews 11:13-16, 1 Peter 1:1, 2:11-12) and that our citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20).  This place, this entire planet, is not home. It is a place of work, a battlefield, and a proving ground, but it is not home.

If I truly believe this–that my entire life is just a stopping off point on my journey–then it changes things. Radically. It changes the way I teach my children about home and, in fact, changes the very definition of home. In wanting to provide those stable roots for my children, then, maybe I don’t need to have a single place that we call home. Maybe instead of cement, our foundation will be The Word. Maybe instead of doors, we will open our hearts to God and to others. Maybe instead of windows, we will reflect the love of Jesus to the world. And in doing so, maybe we will help bring others home.

I don’t know when or where or if we will ever settle in a home, but I do know one thing with certainty. With hope there is home, and I have enough hope to carry me through infinity Augusts.

And in the end, I will truly and forever be home.

 

A Photo Tour Through Our California “Mountain” Home

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Ah, home sweet home. This week marks one month since we moved into the house we now affectionately refer to as River House (even though the “river” that supposedly runs behind our house is currently only a dry creek bed. I’m sure the massive El Niño they’re predicting for this winter will take care of that in no time, though).

It was a bit of a gamble moving out here–we’re getting a steal of a deal on the rent (by Bay Area standards, not by normal human standards), but the house is in the “mountains” (Californian for tree-covered hills). Even though it is physically quite close to civilization, there is an absolute feeling of remoteness. Though only two miles separate River House from town and the rest of Silicon Valley, the two places sometimes feel like they are worlds apart: Mountain people drive trucks instead of Ferraris; in the mountains you hear crickets and cougars (yes, large wild cats share our property) instead of The 101 or 85; in the mountains your gardener is Jesus, not Jesús from Ramirez Brothers Landscaping. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, I kind of love it.

I know you’ve all been curious to see what life is like out here in the boonies, so here’s a peek inside our little mountain life.

We are probably the only house in the mountains (or anywhere, for that matter) that has a large cement goose wearing a dress and an Irish welcome plaque at the front door. You really can’t miss us.
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Once inside the threshold you enter the Great Room. Turning left you’ll see our living room and school corner. My favorite part of this room is the massive vaulted cedar ceilings and the river rock fireplace (we’ll talk more about the necessity of that fireplace in a moment).IMG_6503

To the right of the living room is the area we’ve set up as the dining room and, beyond that, the kitchen.
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I love our kitchen at this house! It’s spacious and bright and, as of last week, fully functional. See our brand new fridge? This was a gift from our landlords two weeks after we moved in…after our old fridge died. We went 4 days with no working fridge which made storing food and eating fresh food a bit of a challenge. The ordeal gave me a greater appreciation for my pioneer ancestors. With the help of our generous neighbors offering us space in their fridge and a chest freezer in our garage, however, we persevered and survived the Great Fridge-pocalypse of 2015.
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The kitchen is so spacious that I actually have empty drawers and cabinets–and that’s saying something considering we own such obscure kitchen gadgets as an apple-peeler-corer-slicer and a Turkish coffee station.IMG_6519

Remember how we’re living in the mountains, and it’s full of wonderful surprises? Well, no tour of our kitchen would be complete without the inclusion of our little kitchen friends, the ants. And the gnats, but they’re too small and too fast to snap a photo of.IMG_6518

Off the kitchen is one of our five decks. This one is currently housing our BBQ…and a drying rack with our swim gear.IMG_6512

Speaking of the decks, we spend quite a bit of time out on them. This is Bota’s deck (she allowed a guest for the photo op):IMG_6514

And the boys’ play deck:IMG_6130

Back inside the house, we’ll finish the tour of the top floor of the house. Just off of the Great Room/Kitchen set up is the master bedroom (or, if you ask the boys, The Boys’ Second Bedroom):

IMG_6471Notice the utter lack of grown-up bedroom furniture. We had sold half of our bedroom furniture before we moved to Ireland, and then we sold the rest of it this summer so we wouldn’t have to move it. This was before we realized that we actually need bedroom furniture for absurd purposes like HAVING FURNITURE TO USE. Our mattress is currently sitting on the floor, I’m using a Rubbermaid container as a night stand, and I literally found Jon’s nightstand in a dumpster. It’s actually pretty cool, because we feel like we’re in college again. Not to worry, though, because our real Grown Up furniture has been ordered and is en route as we speak (!).

From the bed you can see our two private decks and gas fireplace–once you look past the Rubbermaid nightstands, it’s quite the retreat. IMG_6469

The white door you can see to the left of the fireplace is our closet. It’s a massive closet with ample storage for our clothing (and our full suitcases and boxes full of clothing, because it turns out bedroom furniture like dressers are actually useful for things like holding your clothes).IMG_6473Continuing on through the master suite you come to the master bath. The soaking tub is so inviting to my achy pregnant body but, unfortunately, I can’t use it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is in a DROUGHT, which means there are water restrictions in place. And by water restrictions, I mean our mountain home is basically siphoning water from the city through a straw and if we go over our allotted amount, the water police will come knock down our front door. And they’ll fine us thousands of dollars, but whatever. Alas, the soaking tub will have to wait.
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Finishing up the tour of the master suite is our…office corner? I don’t even know what to call it. We have a dresser, filing cabinets, boxes of crap we don’t want to unpack, a bookshelf, school stuff, and a random office chair (with no desk) crammed in there.At least there’s a pretty little deck to go stand on if you want to get out of the mess!
IMG_6472This is also where we house our modem (for the world’s slowest internet) and our landline telephone (because we don’t get cell phone reception at the house). See, it really is like we’re in college again.

That wraps up the top floor of the house! Now, down to the first floor.

The boys’ bedroom is the first room you come to at the bottom of the stairs. We have their bunkbed set up so they can practice their climbing and diving skills from more precarious heights.
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Opposite the bunk bed is the boys’ dresser and reading corner. Pay special attention to the most important addition we’ve made to the bedroom: our eye in the sky camera.IMG_6496

Since the boys are now residing on a different level of the house from the parents, we considered it prudent to install surveillance apparatus. The camera allows us to capture all of the bedtime moments when the boys are anywhere but in their beds.IMG_6425

Next door to the boys’ room is the nursery/storage room/guest room/play room (don’t ever let me be your interior designer). This is the nursery side of the room (Yes, we are 4 months early, but it was just easier to set everything up than store it):IMG_6475

The closet in this room is stacked floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia: IMG_6477

The opposite side of the room is currently acting as the boys’ play room (because this room has a door that locks, thus containing the mess and the temptations).

(Not pictured: the center of the room, the “guest room”, where we will set up our blow-up air mattress for anyone who wants to brave a visit).
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Also downstairs is the boys’ bathroom. It’s cute, but it smells like pee, so I try not to go in there.IMG_6474

We also have a lovely laundry room downstairs with a utility sink (an absolute necessity with children, I’ve decided).IMG_6479

One whole wall of the laundry room is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The cabinets are chock-full of electronics equipment (What, that’s not what you store in your laundry room?)IMG_6480

Outside of the laundry room is a linen closet and our game closet. We rarely play games, so I find it absurd that we own this many. Anyone want to come over for a game night soon?
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If you go down the hallway past the laundry room you come to our garage. It’s pretty well organized with storage along the walls, infinity toys on one side, and a narrow sliver of empty space down the other side where Jon can maneuver his car inside to park (it’s a very shallow garage, so it’s quite amusing to watch this transaction take place).IMG_6494

Outside the garage we have our yard. Yup, that’s it. Our property line extends 6 feet on either side of the house and is backed by the (dry) creek and a canyon wall, so this is the entirety of our outside space.IMG_6488

You may have noticed a wooden fence in front of the house (see the photo at the top of this post if you need a refresher), and you may have thought that was a nice little fenced-in yard. You would be wrong. What that is, my friends, is the propane tank enclosure. Because we live off the grid in the mountains, our main heat source for the house is propane gas (what?!?!). Since moving here, I have had to endure propane safety lessons with the gas company and join a propane users support group. True story. Thankfully it’s still FREAKING 100 DEGREES EVERY DAY HERE, so we haven’t had to try out the whole propane gas heat thing yet.IMG_6482

Now, I mentioned earlier that the fireplaces were important, and now you know why. With propane being our main source for heat, and propane being VERY EXPENSIVE, we are told that we will be relying on those fireplaces more and more as the seasons change. As such, we are stockpiling wood scraps and collecting them in aesthetically-pleasing boxes around the outside of our house. You’re welcome, neighbors.IMG_6483

Now, with all drawbacks (bugs, propane, water restrictions, slow internet, no cell service, no yard) aside, River House really does suit us well. Every time we walk out our door we are greeted with nature’s playground:IMG_6493

We have woods and canyons and creeks to explore. It feels very much like the Northwest, and very much like home.IMG_6441

And, though you can’t see the houses or the people very well in this photo, we have incredible neighbors. Neighbors who invite us over for dinner and let us borrow their fridge when our fridge dies and who invite us over for bonfires and s’mores and whose kids have Power Wheels drag races with our kids in the street. The neighborhood is teeming with children the same ages as our boys and we’ve all made fast friends. It’s a wonderful tight-knit community, and we feel lucky to live here.IMG_6486

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through our mountain home, and let us know when you’re ready for a visit! I’ll even blow up the air mattress for you.

Filling My Love Jar

Last week we returned from our Last Hurrah of Summer, a half-month-long road trip where we reconnected with the people and places we love in Washington State. The very next day we loaded up the first batch of boxes into our not-yet-unpacked car from our not-yet-fully-packed house and started moving into our new house. August has been a whirlwind of activity. Busy, crazy, hectic, stressful, exhausting, magnificent activity. And you know what? Everything is just as it should be.

While we were in Washington, we celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday. She was pretty much the cutest birthday girl ever.

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I wanted to do something meaningful for her on this monumental milestone, something that might make her cry in front of all of her friends. Awhile back I’d seen an idea for a “love jar” (very few of my great ideas are actually my ideas at all), and I decided to give it a whirl. I sent out requests to all of Mom’s family and friends-who-are-like-family for stories and encouragement they would like to share with her. I wrote out each response and rolled it up like a scroll, then I placed them all in a jar. The result was a vessel overflowing with love.

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After this summer I feel like I am the love jar, and I am bursting. Despite the craziness of these last few weeks–perhaps because of the craziness of these last few weeks–my jar is full. Full of joy, full of awe, full of love.

This summer, my jar was filled each time we embarked on a new adventure or saw a loved one who has been separated from us by too much time and distance.

My jar was filled as we spent time with beautiful people in beautiful places.

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My jar was filled as my sons, who had only met my maternal grandmother as tiny infants, spent quality time snuggling and playing with their GG (we’re already planning our trip to Phoenix so we can get a repeat on this one!).IMG_5583 (1)

My jar was filled when the boys visited Jon’s beloved Granny Doreen and her health seemed to improve with each hug and little boy squeal that filled her home and her heart. IMG_5525 (1)

My jar was filled when we stopped by my paternal grandmother’s house on our drive back home and were able to gather four generations of Schroeders from three states into one photo.

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My jar was filled every day that we spent having fun and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.IMG_5617 (1)

My jar was filled when we managed to collect this many tiny children into one house (catching up with their beautiful mommies between moments of intervention was also bliss).IMG_5638 (1)

My jar was filled when my children met my friends’ children and became instant best friends themselves.IMG_5599 (1)

My jar was filled when my boy challenged me and surprised me with his strength and determination.IMG_5750

My jar was filled this week when we moved into this new house that is the answer to our every prayer (with the selfish exceptions of a lack of cell service and acceptable internet speeds).IMG_5878 (1)

My jar is being filled as this new house becomes our home.IMG_5881 (1)

My jar will continue to be filled each time we explore together and continue on this crazy adventure called life. IMG_5916 (1)

And as this summer comes to a close for all of us, that is my wish for you. That your jar will be filled anew each day and in each season where you find yourself. May your love jar be overflowing: today, tomorrow, and always.

XxX

The Winner of Our 2015 Housing Search!

Let me start by qualifying that this is the result of the 2015 housing search. I don’t want you to get confused because, with the exception of 2007 and 2011, we have moved at least once every year for the past decade. Now that we’ve cleared that up, drumroll please…

And the winner is: Los Gatos Mountain Home!
(House #3 for those of you who participated in my Facebook poll yesterday comparing the three houses we were considering)

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We are thrilled at the opportunity to live in this amazing house! The most amazing part of the house, though, is the story of how we came to it.

On a cold morning in January I was getting the boys ready for school when I heard a knock at our door. It was our gardener, and he had some news: our landlord had passed away. Since he was also the gardener for our landlord’s other house–the one he was actually living in–he was the first to know the news of our landlord’s passing (freebie life lesson: people who work in service fields–secretaries, janitors, gardeners–are always the first to know important news. Treat them well.). I spoke with our rental manager that afternoon and he confirmed that our landlord had indeed passed away, and his family was sorting through what to do with his assets (our house included).

A week or so later I got curious about our landlord–Who was this man that had so suddenly expired? I knew his name and address, so I decided to Google his obituary. What I discovered was shocking–instead of an obituary, all I found were news articles about his murder. Whaaaaat?!?!  Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m living in the middle of a real-life urban legend.

Over the next few months, our landlord’s brother and daughter battled in out in court to see who would gain possession of his assets. We knew that as soon as the court case was resolved or our lease expired–whichever came first–we’d probably be asked to move out. Sure enough, in early July we got notice that we would need to be out of the house at the termination of our lease (August 31).

For the first few weeks of July I went into housing-search panic-mode. I still have PTSD from looking for houses here last summer, and I was NOT looking forward to going through the whole process again. Why, you might ask, were you so worried about the housing search? Well, imagine you’re looking for a house to rent because the only houses you can afford to buy are not in the same state you live in. And because the cost to buy is so high, everyone is forced to rent. And there are approximately 5 bajillion people at any given time who are fighting over the same crappy “affordable” houses to rent. And you have a dog and two obviously loud children (which, for some reason, is not as appealing a combination to leasing agents as a young power couple who work 80 hours a week and summer in Nantucket). You get the picture.

So began the house-stalking. I would literally wake up every morning, open my computer, and refresh my housing searches on Craigslist and Zillow. Any and every house/townhouse/condo/shack in the woods that met our criteria was starred and I’d send them an email or text. Every single listing said “No pets, NO DOGS, DON’T EVEN ASK”, but I’d ask anyway because–hey, ya never know. I’d do this whole process again 5 or 6 times during the day, and again right before I went to sleep. It’s a full-time job.

Between online searches, I’d load the two obviously loud children up in the car and we’d drive around to all of the houses that wrote back that they’d consider accepting a pet as long as we gave a deposit of half our life savings and a blood promise that the dog was not a savage beast with giant dragon talons hiding under her sweet furry paws. In the 2.5 weeks that I was actively searching for houses, we visited well over a dozen houses all over this traffic-ridden region. It was raucous fun.

By Wednesday of last week, I was spent. Not a single house had panned out. One house smelled distinctly of death and urine. One house had 20 people waiting outside in the driveway for the open house–10 minutes before the open house was even scheduled to begin. One house was literally falling apart every time you touched it (this would go GREAT with my never-destructive boys). One house was in a neighborhood surrounded by barbed wire fences (not actually, but that maybe would have been a good idea). It was, in short, discouraging. Heart-breaking. Exhausting. I was spent.

After having a good long ugly cry over the fact that we would NEVER NOT EVER find a house in this awful-yet-somehow-still-wonderful place, I decided to try a new strategy. I was getting desperate. I reached out to a mommy-runner Facebook group that I’m a part of, San Jose Moms Run This Town. It’s a great network of local moms, and I thought if anyone would know anything around here it would be moms who spend their days carting children around and running through local neighborhoods.

Within a few hours of posting my housing woes to the Facebook page, I had several women from the group respond that they would help me look for houses in their neighborhoods. By the next day, I’d connected with another mom whose neighbor was about to put his house up for rent. She gave me his contact information, and I turned my house-stalking instincts to him. I’m sure he appreciated this.

As soon as the owner gave me the home’s address, I loaded up the boys in the car to drive up and see the house in person. From the owner’s description of the house when we spoke on the phone, it sounded too good to be true. Plus, the rent was significantly lower than any other house I’d found–I figured there must be some massive flaw that I was missing. I just had to see it with my own two eyes.

Driving up to the house was surreal. Jon’s dream ever since we moved here has been to move to the “mountains” (not mountains like you PNW’ers know, but large hills covered in Redwoods and gurgling streams). The house is located just past the town of Los Gatos (Imagine your quintessential all-American town with historic Victorians and Art Deco architecture. Now throw in a bunch of multi-millionaires driving Lamborghinis, and that is Los Gatos.). The house is nestled in the woods so you feel like you’re a million miles away from everything, yet you can still be at the closest winery and local coffee roaster in 5 minutes.

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When we got to the house Jacob had fallen asleep in his carseat (this is what happens when your loony mommy throws you in the car for yet another house expedition right in the middle of nap time). I parked the car on the side of the house (because it’s a one-lane road and I didn’t know where else to discreetly spy from). The current tenant was out working in his garage and somehow he noticed my conspicuous SUV parked outside his house. Thankfully he was a friendly and  pretty normal looking guy, and he invited us in for a quick look around while we were there.

I grabbed the sleeping child and the crazy one, and we trekked in for our unscheduled house tour. When we got inside, I was floored. This wasn’t just a house, this was a great house.

The living room has sweeping vaulted ceilings covered in gorgeous cedar. There’s a wood-burning fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows leading out to one of five decks.

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The kitchen is massive. And all appliances stay (not the case in most of the rentals we looked at because, I don’t know, if they charge you an arm and a leg for rent I guess they feel like they can punch you in the stomach, too, while they’re at it).

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The master bedroom is not even a bedroom. It’s a sanctuary. It has those same huge gorgeous ceilings as the living room. There’s a gas fireplace to warm your toesies as you snuggle into bed. There’s a walk-in closet the size of most Silicon Valley homes. There’s an en-suite bathroom with a soaking tub and a glass shower. There are not one, but two private decks.

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Downstairs has two bedrooms with views of the creek, a full laundry room (complete with cabinets and counter space for all of your sorting-and-folding needs), and a two-car garage.

The community consists of about 50 homes along a 1 mile stretch of private road. From what I hear, it’s a close-knit group of people with oodles of children running amuck. Perfect.

Or nearly perfect, at least. There are a few aspects of the house that will take some getting used to. Like the fact that there’s no yard–the house faces the road and backs up to a creek so any time we go outside I will need to have my eagle eyes watching kids and dogs. And there’s no cell service (which Jon assures me he will remedy). The house is heated with propane (propane = $$$…good thing we don’t get real winters in California!). For the few sacrifices we will be making, though, we knew that this house was The One.

We called the owner back that night and emailed him our application (and for good measure I also attached the cutest family photo I could find and a personal letter that I wrote in hopes of helping our case right along). The next day the owner called us back and gave us the news I never thought we’d hear: WE GOT THE HOUSE!!! Jon still hasn’t even seen the inside of the house, but we knew it was the right one and we signed the lease.

Perhaps the most amazing part of this whole story is how perfectly perfect everything turned out. We had a list of everything we needed in a house, and the things we wanted but didn’t think we could ever get. We prayed over that list every night and (not-so-patiently, on my part) waited to see how our prayers would be answered.

Now I can tell you for certain, those prayers were answered. Every prayer–from the location to the price to the timing of the move-in–are exactly what we prayed for. Or better. Because that’s how God answers His children. He always gives His best–not good–the best. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-learn this lesson, it always leaves me in a state of sheer amazement.

So, in not so few words, that is our house story. I am grateful to Jon for putting up with my irrational fear of homelessness. I am grateful to my new friend and neighbor-to-be Melodie for leading us to this house. I am grateful to the owner for taking us with our crazy kids and our sweet, calm dog (dragon talons excluded). I am grateful. And that’s a good place to be.

Almost as good as being home.

Reflections At One Year Post-Ireland

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I actually don’t even know where to start this one. Every time I try to write this post I get overly emotional and I can’t get the words out. You’d think that after a year things would get easier, but they don’t. The truth is, I loved Ireland and most everyone and everything in it, and I miss it deeply. Tomorrow marks one year since we left Ireland for our next adventure in California–and what an adventure it has been! Since moving to California we’ve experienced the highest of highs…and the lowest of lows. And the manic-depressive nature of this year has me missing Ireland even more.

On the “high” side, we’ve relished in the daily sunshine–we spend time outside every day, and for the first time in my life I didn’t experience a single day of SAD (if you don’t know what SAD is, then you obviously don’t live in a rain cloud like we used to, so don’t worry about it). We’ve been blessed to reconnect with old friends (you know, the dear friends who you visit wearing sweatpants and messy hair so you can laugh and cry together). We’ve met incredible new friends and neighbors who already feel like family. Jon’s job gives him joy and fulfillment like he’s never had in his career before. We’ve spent countless days exploring the beauty and excitement that surrounds us in the Bay Area. Our children have flourished in their new environment and are truly happy. Life is good.

And, yet. The lows. The lows this year have challenged me to my core. In many ways, this has been one of the most demanding years of my life. We’ve had to make difficult decisions: parenting decisions and financial decisions and housing decisions and school decisions. Seemingly endless decisions. Decisions with long-term repercussions that took some serious thinking and planning and praying. We had a miscarriage which, alone, was the most difficult season I’ve ever walked through. Add onto that the fact that I still feel a bit like a foreigner in this big, new place, and it’s a lot to take in.

This year has made me yearn for a simpler time, like our year in Ireland. I know that I look back at Ireland with rose-colored glasses because, as difficult as this year has been, Ireland had even more challenges. And, yet.

In Ireland we were connected with people so kind and so welcoming, who poured their love into our lives from the first day we met, that a lot of the challenges just seemed to melt away. I’m still searching for “my people” here–the community who you live life with every day, both the highs and the lows, for better or worse.

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In Ireland things were, quite simply, more simple. Stores didn’t open until lunchtime, and they closed before dinner (ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but it wasn’t the everything-you-want-when-you-want-it mentality that we Americans are so accustomed to). It took an hour to drive to a town 10 miles away, because the only way to get there was to drive through your man’s field and about a dozen sheep paddocks. You ordered goods off a CATALOG…using your TELEPHONE. You spent cold rainy nights (which is near enough every night in Ireland) cozied up in a pub with your family, a pint, and some good craic. You paused every day to drink tea. You didn’t hustle and bustle because there was no reason and no place to hustle and bustle to. Ireland was a lot of slowing down and being still. It was good for my soul, and it is the polar opposite of living in the high-paced conundrum that is Silicon Valley. After a year, I find myself yearning again for the simple.

And, yet. Life goes on, and life IS good. Our year in Ireland impacted me profoundly, but so has this first year in California.

In this year I have learned to follow God more closely. There has been little time for complacency, and endless opportunities for seeking His will. All of the decisions and difficult times have drawn me closer to Him than ever before, and I could not have gotten there without facing the challenges that I did this year.

This year has taught me to cherish the relationships I have, and to hold my loved ones both in my hands and in my heart.

I have learned this year to be bold in who I am, even if that is different from the status quo. This has meant learning to block out the other voices so that I can trust my gut and my instincts. I have seen that sometimes the right thing to do is to quit, and it’s usually good to try again. I have learned to be confident in my faith and my foundation, and that is priceless.

IMG_4256This year has taught me to appreciate the special, ordinary moments. Finding my kids snuggled up together in the same bed, sleeping in each others’ arms. Accomplishing a goal–running a race, finishing a long-anticipated project, learning something new, potty training a toddler. Making a favorite recipe from scratch. Calling an old friend at just the right time. Enjoying a cold treat on a hot day. My boys playing happily in the sandbox for over an hour so I can write a blog post in peace 🙂

One year is plenty of time to learn and to yearn–and I’ve done plenty of both this year. Ireland will always keep a piece of my heart but, if this year has taught me anything, it’s that my heart has an endless capacity for growth to make room for the new loves and experiences that come my way.

An Irish Blessing
May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!

Ireland Allisons iPhone - 0208

A Photo Tour Through My Silicon Valley Home

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Ah, home sweet home. A few short months ago when we found out that we would be moving, I started dreaming about the kind of home we would have in California. Little did I know that finding and securing a house in Silicon Valley is about as easy as walking backward on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Oh, and you have to pay a ransom of your entire life savings to do it.

In the end, though, we did find a house that we are now making our home. Since the STARTING price of a home in the area is a hair over $1 million (seriously, people, I do not understand this craziness), we decided to rent for awhile so we can feel out the place. Even if we did have that kind of money to shell out, we weren’t going to do it right away. Moving with three-week’s notice halfway around the world with two young children was enough drama for me to handle in one summer–no need to throw in real estate agents and endless house tours on top of that.  Now that all is said and done, we are quite happy in our new pad. It’s a great house in a cute neighborhood and, as long as we only eat peanut butter sandwiches and macaroni, we can even afford the rent.

This weekend we’re having a housewarming party at our new house but, since most of you won’t be able to make it in person, I thought I’d give you a little tour here. So, welcome! Welcome to our home.

We usually enter our house from the side door because that’s where our garage is. If you come in off the street, though, you get to use our front door that is usually reserved for guests and my Amazon Prime delivery guy.

IMG_0659Turning to your left from the entry way you see the door to our mudroom/laundry room and our playroom.

The laundry room is quite the unique feature for a home in this area, as most people seem to have their washer and dryer out in the garage. After 13 months of walking through the rain to my garden shed to do laundry in Ireland, though, I could not be more thrilled to have everything conveniently located inside my house again.  There is a door from the laundry room that leads outside to our back yard, but we’ll get to that in a moment.IMG_0662Just outside of the laundry room is our ginormous play room and book nook.
IMG_0660 Yes, we have a playroom. In our pre-kid days, this probably would have been our living room with a big screen TV and surround sound and all kinds of pretty, breakable knick-knacks on the shelves. In reality, though, the children have taken over our lives…and our home. As a result, the kids claim approximately 90% of the home’s square footage as “their space”.IMG_0661There’s a little hallway off the playroom that we use to access the “south wing” of the house. The first room in the south wing is David and Jacob’s bedroom. We decided to have the boys share a room in the new house because we wanted to reclaim the third bedroom for ourselves. It’s a pretty simple room, mostly because the boys make it their mission to destroy anything they can get their hands on (Case in point: the bookshelves. I’d been wanting to hang these vertical shelves on a wall for three houses now, so I was ecstatic to finally put them up in the boys’ bedroom. It took only a few short hours, though, for a boy to attempt climbing the shelves, rip said shelves off the wall, and fall into a scream-y, shelf-y, book-y heap on the floor. We re-hung the shelves and nobody’s tried to climb them again since.)IMG_0683 We also got the boys bunkbeds for their new room. They mostly use the bunkbeds for mountaineering practice, as they climb up anywhere BUT the ladder, and flying lessons, as they find their way down any way BUT the ladder. IMG_0684 Next door to the boys’ room is their bathroom (a.k.a. the target practice room).IMG_0682 The last room in the south wing is our office. Despite our best efforts to make this room into “our space”, we have already set up the Pac ‘n Play (“baby cage”) for those nights when the boys’ “sharing a bedroom” just isn’t working for any of us.IMG_0687 Moving right along, now. If you were to turn to your right from our entry way, you would enter the “north wing” of the house. There’s a big wall that divides the space in this section of the house, and I had a lot of fun decorating it with family photos and memorabilia.IMG_0681Right behind the family collage wall is the master bedroom. To be honest, I have put very little thought into this room. The only important thing was that we finally get to sleep in our own bed again, so we didn’t really care about anything else. The room has a lovely assortment of mismatched Ikea furniture and Rubbermaid storage boxes lining the walls–Martha Stewart would be so proud. There’s also a bathroom off the master bedroom that has the home’s only bathtub. As a result, it is always full of bath toys and hooded bath towels.photo (24)Just outside of the master bedroom is the kitchen and Great Room. Even though our house was built in 1941 it’s seen a few upgrades over the years, including the kitchen’s white tiles and florescent lighting (circa 1993) and stainless steel appliances (circa 4 months ago).IMG_0679The kitchen’s island opens up to our Great Room, a shared space for our living room and dining room. Our family spends almost all of our indoor-time hanging out together in these rooms.IMG_0674The dining room has double doors that open up to a patio, a breezeway to our detached garage, and our back yard.IMG_0671 The back yard is one of my favorite features of the house. It’s a large yard with plenty of room to run around and play. And, since it’s sunny and 70 degrees every day here, we pretty much live out here. Our dog, Bota, is queen of the yard and will only come inside the house now if we entice her with food that the boys have thrown on the floor at dinner time.IMG_0665IMG_0666Another spectacular feature of our house is the garage. It’s huge, and we’ve crammed stuff into every square inch of it (40% of the shelves contain baby paraphernalia and kids’ clothes, 40% contain Jon’s tools and electronics gadgets, and 19% contain holiday decorations and outdoor gear. That leaves 1% of the space for my stuff: a pair winter boots and a box of mementos from my childhood.)IMG_0667The garage also houses a shop sink, a stand alone freezer, and a second fridge (mostly used for Mommy and Daddy’s beverages).IMG_0668That’s it for the house, but as you’re leaving this is the view down our street. The road ends at a dead end where there are two elementary school–a standard public school and a parental involvement charter school. With David starting Big School NEXT YEAR (?!) this could come in handy.
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Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed your tour. Let me know if you’re ever in town and we’ll blow up the air mattress–er, set up the guest suite–for you!